Sunday, October 11, 2009

Pumpkin Patch Stompin' & Apple Pickin'

current foliage

"Someone tramped mud, big pieces of mud, all over in the kitchen," scolded my sister. The perp was me. My previously categorized lawn mowin' shoes were dirtying the clean beige floors of my gramma's condo with logo-embossed chunks of dried mud. The mud I must have picked up in the pumpkin patches we stomped through earlier in the day

My sister left work early last Friday to join Gramma and I on our 45 minute drive around lake Winnebago (no bridge over) to The Little Farmer. Apple picking season is nearly over here, except for the Russett variety, which ripen through early November. But we found enough low-hanging McIntosh and Cortland apples to meet our needs. We each filled one ten pound bag with a mixture of the two varities, which were hard for us to differentiate at first, so Gramma just started eating them to try and use taste to identify. Suuuurrreee.

short row of mcintosh trees

Gramma, having lived through The Great Depression, tucked a few apples in her coat pockets. (It's common to use TGD as a means to explain every stingy habit exhibited from the older folks on my mom's side of the family.) They were apples that when placed in (on top) of her ten pound bag, managed to stay put. But you see, I was pulling all of the fruit behind me in a Red Flyer Wagon, which was a' bumpin' all over the place, spilling and bruising the "they will fit" apples. So while it may sound like Gramma was erring on the side of greed - I mean, we did stop twice to make sure you couldn't see the apples bulging out of her Columbia ski coat (she even tried to fit an apple in the front pocket of her white-washed blue jeans) - it was practical, for a person responsible for making pies for my family year round.

gramma and carebear (with wagon)

Pies, muffins, tarts, cookies, breads - you name it, we imagined making all of those warm treats in the three hours we fought the cold while at the farm. But the truth is: one stinkin' apple meets the fruit quantity demands of most deserts. Case in point: last night Carebear came over for an apple bake-off with three recipes in-hand. We succeeded in baking a double batch of apple strudel muffins (add 1/2 tsp lemon zest to strudel mix, toss diced apple with 1 tsp fresh lemon juice before mixing with batter) and spiced glazed apple cookies, all without denting our respective stashes.

I hope everyone is ready for apple literally all year round. Which makes me wonder, who are these people that buy the large 20 pound apple bags (Ms. Ly), and what the heck do they do with it all? Perennial frozen applesauce? Deer bait? (BB gun targets? That could be fun...) I suppose in times before local grocery stores had connections with growers in South America, you needed to harvest and store your seasonal foods to last until the following year; but this is just ridiculous. I actually eat an apple a day, and a banana, and plain yogurt with homemade granola etc etc But Mom already has a five pound bag in the fridge. Ho hum. I'll be setting up the assembly line in the kitchen shortly to prep the apples for the large storage freezer in the basement.

If only there was a way to store/preserve the pumpkin I prematurely carved so that it would last through the holiday. What can I say, other than: knives, guts, guarantee to meet expectations of worst halloween interpretation ever - I was carve-happy. My 'art' is currently sitting out on the front porch next to a terra cotta planter (filled with fall mums) three times its size. I think the dog's wagging tail, which he whips to and fro as he waits by the front door to be let in, is the extent of the recognition it's getting right now. I think I'll bring it indoors tonight and light it on the fireplace skirt. Maybe the light from the candle's flame will attract the hornets that keep finding a way into the house; perhaps negate the necessity to eat and write with a flyswatter in-hand.

My pumpkin is considered a 'size two.' When we first arrived at the farm, after a confusing detour marked not by proper state highway signs, but by low-to-the-ground red wooden markers cut in the shape of apples, we were greeted by a large barn-wood sign explaining the process of picking and payment. I read a few sentences, before grabbing the red wagon and going on my merry way, relating to following pumpkin markers to the pumpkin patch and apple markers to the orchards; as well as, explaining that the cost of the pumpkin is based on the size of the gourd, not the weight. Scattered across the grounds were sheets of plywood, painted orange, featuring four punched-out pumpkin-shaped holes used by customers to identify the size/cost of their purchase. Size two pumpkins cost $4.90 each.

Everything was pretty straight forward, except the markers that were supposedly leading you to either patch or orchard. The color of paint used on the wood was neither a true orange or red and therefore led me way off target, to what I'm assuming was a private patch, because no one else was picking near us, and after second inspection upon leaving the farm, I noticed that I had been following the wrong markers.

me (excuse bad hair), gramma and carebear (with pumpkins)

The patches were just fields of uneven muddy ground, snaking vines and gourds of oranges and greens. [see photo below] I can't say how many patches there were in total on the grounds, but from what I could see, there was one near the entrance by the lawn-parking lot, two small pre-picked lots near the petting farm (no, I did not pet any goats) and my secret patch by the McIntosh and Cortland apple orchards. It was like my own personal one-stop shop picking experience, well it would have been, had I purchased my apple picking bag before hunting for the pumpkin. I didn't read that darn sign. But it was for the best, because having to go into the 'shop' (to buy the bags) is a treat in and of itself; it doubles as a bakery.

After spending twenty minutes looking for pumpkins, we walked back towards the parking lot to the front shop to inquire about the apples. With the purchase of our picking bags, we enjoyed homemade carmel covered apples with bits of nuts and heath bar, and confirmed the time to return for freshly baked apple muffins. Both were very satisfying, although it would have been a better dining experience had there been tables available indoors. It was a tad too chilly to be motionless outdoors. But all the families, some bundled up more than others, enjoyed their treats just the same. Outside, we were privy to watch a farm cat attack a couple aimless peacocks. I tried to take some photos with my cell phone, but I guess my stealth creep had a reverse effect on the animals.

We drove > we arrived > we picked > we ate > we picked > we ate > we paid > we left. I think we've all had enough of the farm, so let's move on.

We drove to Gramma's for chili after we packed the back of my wagon with our goods. The sun was beginning to set and folks were just getting out of the work for the weekend. We drove mostly in silence listening to a CD of Chopin's Nocturnes. I can't say anyone in my family enjoys listening to classical music as much as I do, but no one complains when I play it, which is really nice. Not like when I play KISS-FM on my mom's car sirius/xm player. Mom and I were stopped at a drive-through ATM the other day and 'Birthday Sex' came on, it was a moment.

After chili, coffee and sweets (we always end every meal with a sweet), Carebear and I attacked the pumpkins. Carebear had printed some carving design templates from the local newspaper's website; I just winged it. Pictures below:

I kind of intended to go with two dinosaurs fighting at first, but everyone kept commenting that my dino looked like a wolf (???) and I ran out of space (only so much room on the front) so I just let it be. I added a half moon to give my mouth-agape monster a purpose. I dig it. Next year I need to get a few carving tools; smaller and sharper knives. Carebear won't be laughing then! Yeah right; remember what I wrote above about meeting expectations? Always.


  1. super fun! i always get such high hopes when i start carving pumpkins but something always goes wrong and they end up looking butchered.

  2. It looks like a cave-drawing of a dinosaur (on a pumpkin). Which I guess is anthropologically impossible, but Halloween is a magical time, isn't it?